Category Archives: Opinion

Review: Stuart Lowe, The Housing Debate

Stuart Lowe’s The Housing Debate takes a refreshingly broad view of housing and welfare. Rather than a balanced introduction for students to current debates around housing and social policy, Lowe has a clear case to make. ‘There is mounting evidence that housing is not only an important pillar of welfare states, but, looked at in its broadest sense, has become a foundation.’

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Review: Tony Fitzpatrick (ed.), Understanding the Environment and Social Policy

This is an exploration of the complex relationship between social policy and the environmental challenges which we all face, with social policy here defined as ‘systematic public interventions relating to social needs, well-being and problems’ (p.2) – and the relationship really is complex because, whereas in the short term there might be a trade-off between money spent on protecting the environment and money spent on health, housing and education, in the longer term money not spent on protecting the environment will impact on health, housing and education. In the other direction, social policies in areas such as fuel poverty will have an impact positively or negatively on the environment; social policies have often been designed to promote economic growth, and this has an impact on the environment; and to redirect the aims of social policy will have an impact, too, and preferably one which will steer us away from the worst of the possible climate change outcomes.

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Review: Policy and Politics, volume 39, number 1, January 2011, Special issue: Basic Income

This substantial collection of articles rehearses a plethora of arguments for a Citizen’s income (here termed a Basic Income), arguments both pragmatic and visionary; and an important byproduct for the reader is a distinct sense that the pragmatic and the visionary are related in a way more complex than we might at first have thought.

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Review: James Alm (ed.), The Economics of Taxation

The title of the series to which these volumes belong contains an important ambiguity. A critique is a careful examination of a subject, so a critical writing is a careful study of the subject under review; but in common parlance ‘critical’ also means ‘significant’. (We might say that the title of the series contains a critical ambiguity.) It is in this double sense that the writings contained in these volumes are ‘critical’. They are careful studies of aspects of taxation, and they are also significant, in relation to the study of taxation, in relation to the social policy field as a whole, and because they have been seminal in their field.

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Review: Emilio Albi and Jorge Martinez-Vazquez (eds), The Elgar Guide to Tax Systems

The editors’ introduction to this volume of thoroughly researched conference papers shows just how much has changed in OECD tax systems during the past few decades: flatter income tax rates, ubiquitous VAT, the almost complete disappearance of wealth taxes, a substantial reduction in excise duties, and much more. The separate chapters discuss the reasons for these changes, and also such fields as corporate taxes, environmental taxes, decentralized taxation, tax administration, and the relationships between tax policy, politics, and research.

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Passported Benefits and a Citizen's Income

Passported benefits The Government’s Social Security Advisory Committee’s press release of 15 June 2011 heralded a ‘Public Consultation: Passported Benefits under Universal Credit – review and advice.’ In a footnote, the press release stated: By Passported Benefits we mean those benefits to which working-age claimants of certain means-tested benefits are automatically entitled. For example, free school meals, free prescriptions, free

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